Veterans will have access to resources and services, including a new prostate cancer support group, at the American Cancer Society's Bay Pines satellite office.
When he was a patient at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines about six months ago, George Peters was surprised at how little information there was on prostate cancer in the VA's Patient Education Resource Center.
"I felt veterans were being ignored. There wasn't enough information for them about the disease," said Peters, 73, of Clearwater, whose prostate cancer first was diagnosed in 1993.
Peters, an Army paratrooper in the Korean and Vietnam wars, didn't know the Pinellas unit of the American Cancer Society was already planning to open a satellite office at Bay Pines. Among its services: a support group for men with prostate cancer called Man-to-Man.
The office was dedicated Monday.
"Cancer is killing about 500,000 of our citizens a year," said Robert J. Samuels, chairman of the Florida Cancer Education Network, at the dedication. "If there was an enemy who came into our country and killed 500,000 citizens, we'd be up in arms and outraged."
Samuels, himself a veteran and a prostate cancer survivor, continued: "The key to curing cancer is early detection. But before that, people must be educated. So, I think this center is a wonderful start."
After the brief ceremony, about 50 people toured the tiny office and pamphlet racks in the resource center, where the satellite office will be maintained. It is just off the outpatient lobby in the main hospital.
"I think this office is a great idea," Peters said. "It will help veterans find out about options. And I myself am looking forward to the Man-to-Man group."
Bay Pines facility is the first of 173 veterans hospitals in the country to team up with the American Cancer Society for such an office.
"We think this joint project is really relevant," said Nina Entrekin, director of Medical Affairs for the Florida division of the cancer society, based in Tampa. "It puts us closer to patients who need information. We are hoping it will be a springboard for similar projects elsewhere."
In addition to providing videos, books, pamphlets and Web site information on various types of cancer, the office at Bay Pines also will help cancer patients obtain wigs, turbans, hats, prostheses and other items. Other services will include arranging transportation for veterans to and from appointments.
Cancer society volunteers will run the office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
The Man-to-Man support group will meet for the first time at 7 p.m. on April 30, then on the fourth Monday of the month in a Patient Education Resource Center conference room. For information on the group or other cancer society services, call the VA library at 398-9366 or the American Cancer Society satellite office at 398-6661, ext. 7474.
_ Julianne Wu can be reached at 445-4221 or by e-mail at wusptimes.com.